Debrief: Gus Kenworthy on WSI, World Titles and more
Gus Kenworthy, the precocious freeskier from Telluride, CO was just awarded his second consecutive AFP Overall World title at the conclusion of the AFP World Championships in Whistler, BC. How does one do that? We found out.
YOU HAD A PRETTY SUCCESSFUL WSI: TWO FIRST PLACE FINISHES. HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?
WSI was amazing, I couldn't really have asked for a better turn out. I was able to get a few podiums under my belt leading into Whistler, which was a huge confidence boost and I just tried to use that momentum and ski as hard as possible. I was really stoked on the slopestyle course and the big air jump they built and I think that being comfortable is what made the difference.
THE WEATHER WASN'T THE BEST IN WHISTLER, HOW DO COMPETITORS DEAL WITH HAVING TO JUMP IN THE RAIN AND FLAT LIGHT?
Usually foul weather would spoil an event but despite the fog and even a bit of rain, speed remained pretty consistent all weekend and the park crew did an amazing job maintaining the features. I brought a backpack to the mountain with an extra layer and some different lenses and stuff, but other than that there really wasn't too much that I had to worry about.
DID WSI HAVE MORE OF A LAID BACK FEEL OR WERE YOU TREATING IT LIKE ANY OTHER CONTEST?
I think that it was a mixture of both. I definitely felt a bit relaxed heading into it, knowing that I had already secured the AFP overall title, but at the same time I still really wanted to win. I'm almost competitive to a fault, so it's hard for me to not take an event seriously.
DID YOU PUT AN PRESSURE ON YOURSELF GOING INTO THE WEEKEND KNOWING THAT YOU WERE IN THE DRIVER'S SEAT FOR AFP OVERALL?
No, if anything it was almost comforting to have such a big lead on the AFP overall. Defending that title was one of my biggest goals from the start of the year, so I definitely wanted to make sure that I secured it, but other than that I tried not to think about it too much.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO WIN THE AFP MEN'S OVERALL TITLE TWO YEARS IN A ROW? DOES IT VALIDATE A LOT OF YOUR HARD WORK AND TRAINING?
Competing in all three disciplines can be physically and mentally draining and I've definitely had moments where I've considered calling it quits in either pipe or slope to more actively pursue the other. Defending my AFP title definitely validated a lot of my hard work and was a huge pat on the back after a pretty intense season.
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE GUYS BEHIND YOU? JOSSI WASN'T TOO FAR BACK. AND TORIN AND JOSS WERE HOT ON HIS HEELS.
All the boys killed it super hard this year, it was definitely a difficult year to try and stay on top of the rankings. Torin kind of came out of left field as an overall contender, but he's such a fierce pipe skier that even if he hadn't killed it as hard as he did in slope he still probably would've ended up around the top. Jossi's a super talented all-around-skier and he was the one that I was looking out for most from the start, since he won the title two years ago. And Joss Christensen absolutely annihilated it this year, I'm actually really surprised that he only ended in fourth in the overall rankings. In my eyes he had one of the most impressive seasons of anybody. With a big air win, three pipe podiums and four slopestyle podiums I think his biggest downfall was that he wasn't able to accumulate any high value X Games points. I think next year will be a very different ball game for Joss if he's invited to compete in Aspen, which I'm sure he will be.
Gus en route to his big air win at WSI last weekend. p: Shay Williams
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE AFP AWARDS BANQUET? HOW WAS IT TO HAVE EVERYONE TOGETHER IN ONE PLACE?
The AFP Awards banquet was incredible. The food at Barefoot Bistro was delicious and seeing everybody dressed up in one place was awesome. It was definitely a nice way to end a great weekend.
DO YOU FOCUS ON THE OVERALL TITLE AS A GOAL OR JUST TAKE EACH EVENT SINGULARLY AND TRY AND DO WELL AND IT JUST BUILDS ON ITSELF?
I made a list of goals at the beginning of the year, the AFP overall title being one of them, and tried to take a proactive approach to achieving them. Once the season was underway I tried to focus on each event individually and not let the pressure of my goals get to me too much.
WHAT WERE A COUPLE OF YOUR COMPETITION HIGHLIGHTS THIS SEASON? ANY LOW POINTS?
I had a lot of highlights this year. I competed a ton, more than I can even believe, and quite a few podiums and wins which was incredible. I landed my first triple at JOI which was a big step for me. I've tried a few different ones before and gotten close but hadn't quite stomped any yet so it was really nice to finally put one down. There weren't too many low points, I managed to stay relatively injury free all season long which was maybe one of the best things that came out of this year. I had a few frustrating events, a lot of fourths and fifths, but I feel like everything kind of worked out in the end.
YOU HAD MORE THAN 20 TOP FIVE FINISHES THIS YEAR, AND EIGHT MORE TOP 10. HOW DO YOU STAY SO CONSISTENT?
The past few years I think that I went into events with a 'more balls to the wall' approach and because of that I wasn't always able to land my runs. This year, I still tried to put together crazy runs, but I think that I mellowed out in some areas and stuck to what I knew I could land.
DID YOU EXPECT TO TAKE THE AFP BIG AIR TITLE AS WELL? YOU SNUCK UP ON EVERYONE THIS LAST MONTH.
I definitely didn't think I was going to take that title, at all. I went to pretty much every city big air this year and was getting pretty frustrated when I ended up either fourth or fifth at almost every one. The big air jump at X Games wasn't exactly what I was hoping for and even though I made finals, I ended up fifth there too. It wasn't until the end of the season where I really picked up the pace in big air with a win at JOI, second at Nine Knights and a win at WSI.
The first competition in North America this season, Dew Tour Breckenridge. p: Shay Williams
ANY TIME TO RELAX NOW THAT THE COMPS ARE SLOWING DOWN?
I'm still on snow for a few more weeks, but the intensity is definitely turned down for a bit. I'm currently at a Vitamin Water training camp in Northstar and they've got a private pipe and jump for us, so I'm trying to learn a couple of things before this summer. Then there's another camp with the U.S. Team in Mammoth and once that's over it's going to be pretty mellow for a while. I'll probably go up to Whistler and Hood for a bit to cruise around and keep my legs warm and then I'll probably wrap up the summer in New Zealand again.
YOU EVEN MANAGED TO ACCUMULATE THE MOST POINTS BY AN ATHLETE IN FANTASY FREERIDE, AS WELL AS ANOTHER TOP 10 FOR PEOPLE PLAYING FFL. ANY CLUES ON HOW YOU DID THAT?
[laughs] Yeah, I got pretty into FFL this year. I think that I had an unfair advantage heading into it since I know what courses are going to be like, who's hurt, who's been skiing well, etc… Bummed I wasn't able to win as a player, but thoroughly looking forward to making a kick ass team next year!
WHAT'S ON YOUR LIST NEXT YEAR? ANOTHER SARAH BURKE TROPHY?
Definitely planning on trying to defend the overall title, three years in a row would be pretty amazing if I could pull it off. Now that I have an AFP big air trophy I'd be stoked to try and win a pipe and slope one and make a full collection. [laughs] And then obviously an X Games medal is the most prestigious award and is a huge goal of mine, so that's at the top of my list next to getting a Freeskier cover… What do you think?!
ANY PEOPLE THAT YOU'D LIKE TO THANK FOR HELPING YOU REACH THE TOP AGAIN THIS YEAR?
I'd like to thank all my friends, in particular Robin Macdonald who traveled with me all year and helped me out a ton. My family who's support is undying and always appreciated even if I don't always show it. My agent, Michael, and my sponsors—I couldn't do it with you.
Gus Kenworthy swept the Aspen/Snowmass Open… for his second time. p: Shay Williams
For Kenworthy's full competition results, visit his AFP Rankings page.
About the author:
Shay Williams is the former Managing Editor of Freeskier Magazine. He now works full-time with Monster Energy, and continues to contribute to freeskier.com.